(JTA) — Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty charged that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is "further away now" than it was the day President Obama took office.
Speaking Tuesday before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City, Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, criticized Obama’s handling of the Middle East conflict, calling his lack of judgment on dealing with Israel "stunning."
“It breaks my heart that President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally,” Pawlenty said. “Today the president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process. He has an attitude. And let’s be frank about what that attitude is. He thinks Israel is the problem. And he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel.”
Pawlenty said Obama seems to "genuinely believe the Palestinian and Israeli conflict lies at the heart of every problem in the Middle East."
"The uprisings in Tunisia, Cairo, Tripoli and elsewhere are not about Israelis and Palestinians. They’re about oppressed people yearning for freedom and prosperity," Pawlenty said. "Whether those countries become prosperous and free is not about how many apartments Israel builds in Jerusalem."
If elected, Pawlenty said he would never undermine Israel’s negotiating position or pressure it to negotiate with Hamas. He said he would ensure financial assistance to the Palestinians ends immediately if the teaching of hatred in classrooms and on public airwaves continues.
"We must recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel," Pawlenty said.